Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Friday, December 09, 2005

Life on the Rez, Installment 3

Ya'Ta'hey! That's Navajo for "Hello" (Ja! - Ta- Hay). One of the few words I learned years ago from my four years of teaching in the Dine'tah (literally, "land of the people"). To us, these people are the Navaho or Navajo. To them, like just about every Native American tribe, they are THE PEOPLE (Dine). Anyhow.....here are some more tales of a Bilaganna (white guy) who taught in Dine'tah back in the late 1980's.

Life up in the four corners area was very different from Southern California. So much was different; the people, the altitude, the rocks, the living conditions, TV.......yes, we had tv up there. They had beaches, but they were fossilized. One of the strange things about living in the four corners area at that time, was that I was living in Arizona, TV was very limited and from Salt Lake City, UT., via an antenna. Radio was from Cortez, Colorado (KRTZ, Your Country Music for the Four Corners!) and the newspapers were from New Mexico (Farmington and Gallop). Unless it was BIG news, we rarely heard about anything happening in Arizona.

As I noted in an earlier post about living in the four corners area, I wasn't too impressed with Farmington, NM. They also had funky stoplights. They were not the dark green lights hanging vertically like I was so used to. No, they had some pukey yellow colored lights that hung HORIZONTALLY. To me, THIS was not NORMAL. For some reason, this made it difficult for me to see their stoplights. I am not colorblind, but I had a hard time distinguishing when a light was yellow. And, to get to the only real place that had much in terms of shopping, their mall, you had to drive all the way across town and negotiate all their dang HORIZONTAL stoplights. I believe myself to be fortunate not to have gotten into a traffic accident because I had to be looking up to find their stupid stoplights, instead of looking around at the other traffic. Anyhow, the eye doctor I started going to was located in this mall, so I had to go to Farmington at least once a year for eye doctor checkups. Other than attending a concert at the fairgrounds by a young country singer from Texas named George Strait, going to the eye doctor was about the only reason I went to Farmington the last two years of living on the Rez.
I should note here too, that there were some really cool things to see on the road between TeecNosPos and Farmington. You had a nice view of the Chuska Mountains to the south, the famous Shiprock volcanic neck, a really spooky wash to drive through that was filled with strangely eroded formations and lots of grey and black volcanic layers. Closer to Farmington you got to hogback, a pinkish-red sandstone'hogback' geologic formation near the 'famous' (locally) Turquoise Bar. The Turquoise Bar was dangerous. It was the first bar off the Rez and one had to watch for drunken people coming from all directions within a quarter mile of that dive. At the time, the tribe was trying to close it down, but they had/have little say for stuff off the Rez. And, there was the San Juan River, winding its way across northwestern New Mexico, and into southern Utah before joining with Lake Powell.

However, a real jewel of the area, at least at that time, was Cortez, Colorado. It was a beautiful little town! I loved going there. The people were very friendly and because of their tourism industry (nearby Mesa Verde and many other cool Anasazi ruins/sites), there were good choices of places to eat, laundry services, etc. At Red Mesa, we were paid every two weeks. So, I had just a bit over two weeks worth of clothing. Payday weekend was often spent going to Cortez. For all you young teachers out there looking for adventure, you couldn't beat a Friday night of depositing your paycheck, washing clothes, grabbing a bite to eat, shopping for groceries at the City Market and filling up your gas tank at the Conoco gas station! :-)

SOME Friday evenings, a number of us teachers from Red Mesa would meet for drinks, dinner and maybe some fun at some of the local establishments. For you young teachers out there, IF you do this kind of thing and decide to drive home anyway, eat a bunch of peppermints or certs. On second thought, DON'T DO THIS. It could be a can of worms you don't need. Anyhow, One night, I did get pulled over by the Colorado Highway Patrol. No, I wasn't drunk (by my standards of the time), but I had consumed what was probably a tad over .08's worth. No, I didn't get the attention of the CHP officer by erratic driving. It was the speed. Not real fast, but 64 mph in a 55 mph zone near Towaoc (homebase of the Southern Ute Nation, now home of a Casino and Ute Pottery) on highway 666 (YES, that IS the official number to designate that highway. It goes from Shiprock, NM up towards Montecello, Utah). The officer saw my Arizona drivers license, saw my load of clean clothes and groceries in the back of my truck, asked me where I was going. "Home," I said, "down at Red Mesa." "Ok," he said, "sign here." I'll take a speeding ticket anyday over a DUI. When I got home and was unloading my truck, one of my fellow teachers from that "Fun" evening, Annie, came by to let me know they had passed me when I was pulled over and were glad I wasn't spending the night in the Montezuma County Jail. What are friend for, eh?

I learned another interesting lesson on one of my first trips to Cortez. As I was leaving town, I stopped to get gas for my truck. I squeegied water on my windshield to wash it, and damnit, the water had froze! "What the heck????" I wondered. This never happened back home (desert and San Diego). Glancing across the street to the bank sign with a temperature display, I saw why. Oh, it was 21 degrees F. No wonder the water froze on my windshield. A good lesson for a desert rat/ part time beach bum.

Ha'goshin a' (so long for now. Hope you enjoyed reading this installment of my experiences "on the Rez". Thanks for reading my blog! As always, you comments are welcome!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Should we use a Different Grading Scale ? Or is it that different?

I don't know why teachers at my school are suddenly talking about low grades. It is really nothing new at my school, to have a large percentage of underachieving students earning low or failing grades. Much of it is due to being in a very low, socio-economic region with a very high recent immigrant population of non-English literate people. Anyhow, I noted in a previous blog, that several are now indicating that a student is not just failing the class, they are earning an "F-". This got me to thinking some more. That might not be so good, but, in thinking back to our October conferences with parents about their child's current grades, last spring's standardized test scores and their past writing and math proficiency scores, and such, teachers were asked to show the parents where their child's standardized test "place them" in terms of being Proficient, Above Basic, Basic, Below Basic or Far Below Basic. This scale for the standardized test was about 85-70-55-45-35 percent. This scale that my district told me to use was much different from the A-B-C-D-F scale (90-80-70-60-....) we are told to use as a guide for their academic grades. What If I assigned letter grades to my students using the scale employed for the standardized tests?

There would sure be a lot fewer "F's" if a student had to be at 35% or below to earn an F grade. And, except for a few exceptions, most of those who will earn an F in my class are, for whatever reasons, "Far Below Basic". They cannot read anywhere close to grade level. They are not organized. They often make little attempt to work in class or complete homework. They have been socially promoted. They have never been held accountable or responsible for anything. In short, they are Far Below Basic.


Thanks for reading my blog! As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

One Year Ago, this time of the Month.....

About this time of the month, back in December, 2004, I began this blog. Thank you very much, those of you who have read my blog. And a special thanks to those of you who have left comments and whom I like to think are a bit more than just other teachers who blog.